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Vol. 35 No. 2
March-April 2013

Drawing Chemical Structures

Chemical nomenclature is one of those topics that is, for many, synonymous with IUPAC; and, if there is just one reference that compiles these concepts, it is "the" Principles of Chemical Nomenclature—A Guide to IUPAC Recommendations. Following the latest release of this book in December 2011, Jeffery Leigh, editor and contributing author of "the Principles," began writing a regular column for CI called "Nomenclature Notes" in which he reviews the book's coverage and content, and illustrates the intricacies of the subject.

image of Fabienne Meyers

The Nomenclature Notes in this issue is about chemical structure representation, a topic newly introduced in the 2011 edition of Principles. Leigh starts by noting that "the drawing of chemical structures is not strictly a nomenclature matter." Yet, similar to "textual" nomenclature, it is a communication tool developed and used by chemists. Oliver Sacks in his recent book The Mind's Eye reminds us that Kekule said of himself that he had "an irresistible need for visualization." This is of no surprise to chemists, and it is therefore only fitting that IUPAC set out recommendations on drawing chemical structures.

Drawing chemical structures is an alternative and supplementary tool to traditional nomenclature. Chemists, but also software, can infer chemical nomenclature from structural representations and vise versa. It is an essential communication tool used by instructors and professional chemists. The requirements for standardized drawing are not only aesthetic, but they are driven also by the feasibility (and desirability) of making electronic publications richer by way of embedded information. In chemistry, that includes chemical structure representations. Practically, recommendations for the production of chemical structure diagrams aid in the correct recognition of structural information by computer methodology, such as InChI. Simply put, the idea is to make the structures speak for themselves, not only to human eyes, but more importantly, for the computers that support and drive exchanges of information.

Such standards are a prerequisite for enriching communications about chemistry, especially through new digital media. With that said, I invite you to read Peter Atkins's feature and think about what the advent of e-books will mean for chemistry. With digital devices such as tablet computers providing a plethora of easily accessible and retrievable information, Atkins asks "How can we ensure that text books still foster imagination and creativity?"

Fabienne Meyers
fabienne@iupac.org


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